Eclogue III: The Dialogue of Menalcas and Damoetas

Eclogue III: The Dialogue of Menalcas and Damoetas is in Eclogues.

Menalcas:

Damoetas, tell me, whose flock is this? Is it Meliboeus’s?

Damoetas:

No, indeed, it’s Aegon’s: Aegon entrusted it to me the other day.

Menalcas:

O, endlessly unlucky flock! While he makes love

to Neaera, and is afraid she might prefer me to him,

this hired guardian milks his ewes twice an hour,

and the sheep are robbed of vigour, the lambs of milk.

Damoetas:

Nevertheless take care, reproaching men with your words.

We know what you were doing, with the goats looking startled,

and (though the Nymphs smiled unquestioningly) in what grove.

Menalcas:

I think it was when they saw me slashing at Micon’s orchard

and his young vines with my wicked knife.

Damoetas:

Or here, by the ancient beech-trees, when you shattered

Daphnis’s bow and flute: because you grieved, Menalcas,

perverse one, when you saw the boy given them,

and you’d have died if you hadn’t harmed him in some way.

Menalcas:

What can masters do, when slaves are so audacious?

Rascal, didn’t I see you making off with Damon’s goat,

while his dog Lycisca was barking wildly?

And when I shouted: ‘Tityrus, where’s he rushing off to?

Round up the herd,’ you were skulking in the reeds.

Damoetas:

Well didn’t he acknowledge me as winner in the singing,

my flute earning a goat, with its melodies?

If you don’t realise it, that goat was mine: Damon himself

confessed as much to me: but said he couldn’t pay.

Menalcas:

You singing to him? And when did you ever own a wax-glued pipe?

Wasn’t it you, unskilled one, who used to murder a wretched tune,

on a squealing reed, at the very crossroads?

Damoetas:

Do you want us to try what each can do in turn, together?

I’ll wager this cow (don’t be so reluctant, twice a day

she comes to the milking, and she’s suckling two calves):

now you tell me what stake you’ll match it with.

Menalcas:

I wouldn’t dare bet on anything from the herd with you:

I’ve a father at home indeed: and a harsh stepmother,

and they both count the flock twice a day, and one the kids.

But (since you want to act wildly) you yourself, I’m sure,

will truly confess it’s a much grander bet, I wager two cups

of beech wood, work carved by divine Alcimedon:

to which a pliant vine’s been added with the lathe’s art

adorned with spreading clusters of pale ivy.

In the middle two figures, Conon, and – who was the other?

He marked out the whole heavens for mankind with his staff,

the time for the reaper, the time for the stooping ploughman.

I’ve never yet put my lips to them, but kept them stored.

Damoetas:

And that same Alcimedon made two cups for me,

and the handles are twined around with sweet acanthus,

and in the centre he put Orpheus and the woods that followed him:

I’ve never yet put my lips to them, but kept them stored:

if you look at the cow, there’s no way you’d praise the cups.

Menalcas:

You’ll not escape now: I’ll come whenever you call.

Only let it be heard by - Palaemon, if you like, who’s coming, see.

I’ll make sure you never challenge anyone to sing again.

Damoetas:

Come on then, if you have it in you: there’ll be no delay with me,

I shun nobody: only, Palaemon, my neighbour, pay this

your closest attention ( it’s no small thing).

Palaemon:

Now that we’re sitting on the sweet grass, sing.

Now every field and every tree’s in shoot,

now the woods are green, now the year’s loveliest.

Damoetas begin: then Menalcas, you follow:

sing alternately: the Muses love alternation.

Damoetas:

Muses, I begin with Jupiter: all things are full of Jove:

he protects the earth, my songs are his concern.

Menalcas:

And Phoebus loves me: I always have gifts for him,

the laurels and the sweet blushing hyacinths.

Damoetas:

Galatea, the wanton girl, throws an apple at me,

and runs to the willows, hoping she will be seen.

Menalcas:

But Amyntas, my flame, offers herself unasked,

so that Diana herself is not better known to my hounds.

Damoetas:

I have found gifts for my Love: for I have marked for myself

the place where the wood-pigeons build, high in the air.

Menalcas:

I have sent my boy, all I could, ten golden apples

picked from a tree in the wood: tomorrow I’ll send more.

Damoetas:

Oh the things, so many times, Galatea has whispered to me!

Breezes, carry some part of them to the ears of the gods.

Menalcas:

What use is it to me, Amyntas, that you don’t scorn me inwardly,

if while you chase wild-boars, I have to watch the nets?

Damoetas:

Send Phyllis to me: it’s my birthday Iollas:

When I sacrifice a calf for the harvest, come yourself.

Menalcas:

I love Phyllis above all others: since she wept when I left,

and said lingeringly: ‘Goodbye, goodbye, my handsome Iollas!’

Damoetas:

The wolf’s a threat to the fold, the rain to the ripe crops,

the storms to the trees, and Amaryllis’s rage to me.

Menalcas:

Moisture’s sweet for the wheat, the strawberry tree for the kids,

the pliant willow for breeding cattle, and only Amyntas for me.

Damoetas:

Pollio loves my Muse, though she’s rural:

Muses, fatten a calf for your readers.

Menalcas:

Pollio himself makes new songs, too: fatten a bull,

that fights with his horns already, and scatters sand with his hooves.

Damoetas:

Pollio, let him who loves you, come, where he also delights in you:

let honey flow for him, and the bitter briar bear spice.

Menalcas:

Let him who doesn’t hate Bavius, love your songs, Maevius,

and let him harness foxes, and milk he-goats, too.

Damoetas:

You boys that pick flowers, and strawberries, near the ground,

run away from here, a cold snake hides in the grass.

Menalcas:

Sheep, beware of straying too far: don’t trust the riverbanks

too much: even now the ram is drying his fleece.

Damoetas:

Tityrus, turn the grazing goats back from the stream:

I’ll wash them all in the spring myself when the time is right.

Menalcas:

Round the sheep up, boys: if the heat inhibits the milk,

as it has of late, our hands will squeeze teats in vain.

Damoetas:

Alas how lean my bull is, among the rich pastures!

The same love’s the ruin of the herd and its master.

Menalcas:

These truly - and love’s not the cause – are skin and bone.

Some eye bewitches my tender lambs.

Damoetas:

Tell me in what land (and you’ll be mighty Apollo to me)

Heaven’s extent appears no more than three yards wide.

Menalcas:

Tell me in what land flowers grow inscribed

with royal names, and have Phyllis for your own.

Palaemon:

It’s not for me to settle so great a contest between you:

you and he both deserve the calf – and he who fears

the sweetness, or tastes the bitterness, of love.

Close off the ditches now, boys: the meadows have drunk enough.

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